Development of vaccines to help control parasitic diseases in food animals has been boosted by a grant of EUR 9 million (US$9.8 million) via the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.

The PARAGONE project will focus on new vaccines to combat major parasitic diseases that have a significant impact in both poultry and ruminant production systems worldwide. It is being led by the UK’s Moredun Research Institute, and involves 17 international and industrial partners working collaboratively. 

Currently, control of parasite infections relies almost exclusively on anti-parasitic drugs, which is not a sustainable option due to the increasing development of drug resistance among parasites as well as consumer concerns about chemical residues in food.

An alternative is to develop vaccines to help prevent disease and reduce the impact of parasite infection in food animals, providing a more sustainable, safer and environmentally friendly approach to disease control.

Vaccine development against multicellular parasites is a major challenge in human and veterinary medicine, with only two commercial veterinary vaccines currently available, Moredun says, and this lack of accessible vaccines is indicative of the difficulties associated with generating protective immunity against these complex pathogens.

Despite these hurdles, a number of prototype multicellular parasite veterinary vaccines have shown promise recently. In the PARAGONE project, previous successes will be built on, and extensive expertise and knowledge brought together to develop at least two further parasite vaccines towards commercialization.